More bed space needed for renewed influx of kids at border

Rockwell County in North Texas set to accept 300 children

SAN ANTONIO – The federal government is planning to add 1,000 beds in Texas and 400 in California for the renewed influx of Central American children in the Rio Grande Valley.

Rockwell County in the Dallas-Fort Worth area is set to accept 300 children ages 12-18 in the near future, according to County Judge David Sweet. Unconfirmed reports are that up to 700 will go to Ellis County, also in the DFW area.

Earlier Wednesday, a spokeswoman with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said the federal government is checking whether military facilities could accommodate the children like Joint Base-Lackland did last year.

She also said the agency has a national network of shelters, many operated by faith-based groups.

Jonathan Ryan, executive director of the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, said unaccompanied children are not sent to the family detention centers in Dilley and Karnes City.

But there have been more Central American families coming as well, according to the latest figures compiled by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D- Texas, said they show 10,588 children and 12,505 families have arrived since October, the beginning of fiscal year 2016.

He said that’s more than double last year’s numbers, which saw a significant drop from the height of the surge in 2014 when tens of thousands overwhelmed U.S. Border Patrol.

“The steady uptick is causing concern that this year may be worse than 2014,” Cuellar said.

By preparing temporary shelters, Ryan said the federal government is now doing what it should have done last year by responding to early signs of another possible surge.

“This tells us what we’ve known all along, that the situation in Central America is not getting any better,” Ryan said. “Syria is the most dangerous place on Earth, but Central America is the second-most dangerous place on Earth.”

The U.S. has poured millions of dollars into helping those countries combat the criminal organizations that are forcibly recruiting young people into their ranks, causing thousands of families to flee for their lives.

But Ryan said unfortunately much of that aid is “in the hands of very corrupt government and police forces that have been persecuting these people.”

READ: Info on Unaccompanied Children's Services

In response, Cuellar said, “We won’t walk away from these countries due to the allegations of the type of activity we are trying to prevent.”

The congressman said he is asking for increase in funding to fight criminal gangs, traffickers and organized crime.

“Congress must play an important role in overseeing that this aid is not used in unintended ways,” Cuellar said.

He said that’s why the House version of the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Act requires a multiyear strategy on the delivery of Central American aid and requiring they report back to Congress.